Collections FAQs

Our collections


Where do I start?

The first place to start is by making contact with the Archives Centre staff. We should be able to help you find out if we have anything that may be useful to you: drop us an email at archives@chu.cam.ac.uk, or T: 01223 336087, so we can get you started. If you are interested in a particular topic, or if it’s a particular person you are searching for, we can give you some tips on searching our online catalogues. For more help on getting started, have a look at our guide to using archives.

Practical Guidelines for using Primary Sources

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What collections do you have?

A lot! We have over 600 archive collections (so not just the Churchill Papers). There is a list of all our collections in our Full Guide with links to the online catalogue to each collection, and these have also been grouped by subject in the Subject Guide. Our particular strengths are:

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Can I see all your archives online?

Unfortunately not, as digitising archives to make them available online is a very time-consuming and expensive business. However, we have been able to put some of our most heavily-used collections online, and these include:

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Can I search your catalogues online?

Mostly, yes, as the majority of our catalogues are online, either on the Janus webserver, which we share with other archives in Cambridge, or in the case of the Churchill Papers, either at churchillarchive.com or the Churchill Papers. In some cases, though, there may only be a summary of the collection online, if it hasn’t been fully catalogued, or we only have an old paper catalogue which hasn’t been converted to an online format yet. If this is the case with the collection you want to see, let us know, and we should be able to send you the information we have another way.

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Do I need to pre-order what I want to see before I get to the Archives Centre?

Not really, as it only takes a few minutes for staff to retrieve files. However, it is useful to give us an idea of what you need in advance, just in case there are restrictions on what you want to see.

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How do I access/search the Churchill Papers?

The Churchill Papers have been published on a subscription site by Bloomsbury at churchillarchive.com, but this site can be freely used at the Archives Centre, at Churchill College and at other subscribing institutions. Researchers can directly download images of documents and so are encouraged to consider bringing a laptop or other device for this purpose. For conservation reasons, the fragile originals are no longer issued to researchers. See the Churchill Papers page for more information.

Churchill Papers

If you are not able to visit us in Cambridge there are a number of ways you can get remote access to churchillarchive.com. Please feel free to contact Churchill Archives Centre for guidance, at archives@chu.cam.ac.uk. If you are affiliated to an institution of higher education, please check with your librarian if the institution has a subscription or is running a trial. If you would like Bloomsbury to contact your librarian directly to discuss setting up a free trial, please contact onlinesalesuk@bloomsbury.com. There is also free access to the Churchill Papers for schools, at churchillarchiveforschools.com. If you are not affiliated to an institution of higher education and are based in the UK, why not contact your public library to suggest they take advantage of a free trial? Your library can get in touch with JCS Online Resources to set this up quickly and easily. You may also wish to consider purchasing an individual subscription. You can find out about prices and purchasing a subscription from the Bloomsbury sales team.

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Do you have any film of Winston Churchill, or recordings of his speeches?

Unfortunately we have very little film of Churchill; there is a short film of him planting a tree to mark the foundation of Churchill College in 1959, along with footage of him on holiday in the Netherlands and Marrakech in the same year in the Churchill Additional Papers at WCHL 6/21 and there is some amateur and professional film of Churchill’s funeral at WCHL 5, but that is about it. We do however have recordings of many of his speeches (though as these are mostly on the original gramophone records, not all of them can be easily accessed). See WCHL 3 and WCHL 12 for more information.

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How do I access/search the Thatcher Papers?

This archive is gradually being opened, and digitised selections are being made available on the official website of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, but the majority of the archive is still only accessible in paper form, and much of it is still closed. For more information, get in touch with the Thatcher archivist or see our Thatcher Papers page.

Thatcher Papers

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How do I access/search the Mitrokhin Papers?

The original manuscript notes of the former KCB archivist Vasiliy Mitrokhin remain closed and classified, but the series of typescript volumes which he produced in Moscow arranged by country (MITN 1), and those produced later in London and arranged by subject (MITN 2), are open and available for consultation at the Archives Centre. They are written in Russian, but we may be able to put you in touch with a translator. For more information, see the Mitrokhin Papers page.

Mitrokhin Papers

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Why are some archives closed?

Many of the records we hold are very modern and Data Protection restrictions may apply if they contain sensitive information on living people. There are also some closures relating to exemptions specified in the Freedom of Information Act, 2000, for instance in records relating to intelligence or national security. For more information see our Freedom of Information policy.

Freedom of Information

Certain records may be also unavailable until fully catalogued and the Centre’s staff should be able to explain any restrictions in place. Some archives which are too fragile to be safely handled may not be available, and in certain cases, a surrogate may be produced in place of the original.

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